I've been having some trouble sleeping, which happens to me from time to time. Falling asleep is usually easy, but once I am awakened in the dark by one of our resident little people (which happens most nights) I cannot fall back asleep.

Instead, I lie awake and think, for hours. It's your basic garden-variety anxiety. I mull over low points in the girls' behavior. I rehash conversations I wish had gone differently the day before. I worry about situations in the world over which I have less than zero control.

Often, I wrestle with what I'm doing - and not doing - with my life, specifically my "free time." Every week day, when both girls are in school for three hours, I strive to find the wisest, most useful use of my time. Some days I go to the gym and take a long shower. Other days, I walk the dog, grocery shop, prep for dinner, do laundry, and basically run around like a spazzy monkey. Starting this week, I will spend one morning a week volunteering at my Z's elementary school and one morning for a political campaign.

None of it ever seems like the very best choice, the right choice.

It seems, in those dark hours of the night, that three hours is a shamefully large amount of time, time in which I could be accomplishing impressive, meaningful things, and yet when I'm in those three hours, I feel them rapidly shrinking away from me, as if the ticking clock gets faster and louder as I get closer to preschool pick up time. The pressure to use it wisely is strong, overwhelming and guilt-inducing, especially in the wee hours of the night.

How should I best use this time? These fleeting precious hours?


My dad has been sleeping a lot, like a WHOLE LOT. He sleeps for 12 hours a night or more, wakes mostly just for meals and naps most of the day. There have been many different possible explanations for this, and my mom has tried all kinds of things to see if it helps him feel better and be more awake, but the doctors don't know really what to say. Maybe he's just worn out. His body, after years of battling the effects of smoking, cancer, lobectomies, chemotherapy and radiation, might just be plain old tired.

He sleeps and sleeps and sleeps.

I fear one day he will just not wake up.

We're headed to New Jersey next weekend, for a few precious hours.

How am I to spend that time with him? Are there big important things left to say? Will I be upset later if I just while away the hours, eating, chatting, being together in whatever way is possible?

He may be asleep for most of my visit. But I will be there and maybe that's enough.


Nighttime parenting seems like a microcosm of all parenting. The girls appear at my side, suddenly, with their biggest needs, their deepest fears, their darkest moments of sickness.

There I am in the dark, confused, grasping at anything to help me make sense of what is unfolding in front of me. Usually, I rise to the occasion, finding my overwhelming love for my girls called to the fore with little of the frustration or second guessing that happens in the light of day.

In a few of these dark hours, I am my worst mom self, self centered and bitter. I want my sleep, who dares to interrupt my sleep?

Sometimes, in those same hours, I feel a deeper sense of peace and appreciation for motherhood than ever before. Holding little warm bodies close to my heart, caring for their needs, simply, completely. I feel there is no place else I want or need to be. I am effortlessly focused on what matters.

I am happy, in those fleeting hours, before I eventually fall asleep.


shannon said...

That was beautiful. So sorry to hear about your Dad. It sounds like his body has just had enough. I think in those precious moments with him, all that matters is that there is love and connection, however that looks for him/you. Maybe it's doing something you haven't done together since you were a kid, or maybe it's a heart-to-heart, or maybe just being together. I don't think you can go wrong. Those night time hours of mental torment are indeed brutal. I so relate!

Pamela Hunt Cloyd said...

Your writing is so beautiful!! And I share many of your nighttime worries ... I think you should ENJOY your 3 hours and do whatever you need to do to restore for the next 10. Xoxo

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